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Positive Feedback ISSUE 15
september/october 2004

Click here to read all the parts of "The Mysteries of His System, The Verses in His Life, A Love Story, by Barry Grant.


The Mysteries of His System

The Verses in His Life

A Love Story

Part Fourteen

Liberation Through Listening in the Gap

An Audio Play for Any Number of Performers

by Barry Grant




Any number of performers may play the characters and other "parts." The voices of Audie and Prudence and the other characters should sound like the voices you hear in your head as you read their lines. Italicized text is spoken sotto voce in the gap between characters' lines or simultaneous with them. The voices of the pitchmen must be done in different keys. Discreet sound processing and effects may be added. The piece may be recorded on any medium. Live performances are not permitted. If speech becomes song, carry on.



Act 1

Scene 1

A man and a woman skip down a hall and skid to a stop before a sign on a wall next to a door.

The door is on a long corridor in the Made Man Motel.

The sign says, Fine Sound Technology.

The sign names an exhibitor at A Show, where the man and the woman have come in search of their friend, Mr. Bell, and a new system for the man.

The man's name is Audie. The woman's name is Prudence. We know them.

Audie: I heard the chanting! Something about reality. Botching reality?

Prudence: Several notches closer to reality, Audie. I heard it clearly.

Audie: Maybe that's it. Looks up. What's going on? Who's chanting? Where's the sound coming from? Pauses. The voices hang in the air, kind of coloring it, like a Feldman piece.

Prudence: It's a mystery. . .

Audie: Prue, I'm tired of mysteries. Snaps jaw shut and slaps palms against hips. The chanting is a mystery where's Bell is a mystery who I am is a mystery will I ever find my system is a mystery what does it mean that things are perfect in themselves is a mystery am I on the right path is a mystery how that quiz got in our apartment is a mystery how those sandwiches got in your sack is a mystery the only thing in my life that is not a mystery is you Prue well I mean you are a mystery everyone is partly a mystery to everyone else you told me that I mean it's not a mystery that you love me I mean it is a mystery because sometimes I wonder why me but I know you love me still I. . .

Prudence: Audie! Audie! Grabs Audie by his shoulders and pulls him against her. Kisses him hard. Again. Again.

Audie: Thanks Prue. Whew.

Prudence: You are my perfect love, my one love, my own mad, monk of mysteries, Audie. Remember. . .

Audie: Everything is perfect in itself, I know, I know, I know. Voice trails off.

Pitchman: Opens door and enters hall. I thought I heard voices. Come on in. Rubs thumb down a fingernail-sized beard that dots his chin.

Prudence: We are looking for Mr. Bell, Peter Bell. Director of the One World Free Vegetarian Foundation. Do you know him? He might be in trouble.

Pitchman: Sorry, I've never heard of him

Audie: He might be exhibiting a mono system.

Pitchman: Wish I could help you. Extends hand. Name's Robert Mannings, Fine Sound Technology. Our motto here at Fine Sound is, A sound so fine, there's nothing ‘twixt it and silence! James Sheridan Knowles, by the way. Come in. Let me play you our demo and show you what our systems can do.

Audie and Prudence look at each other and say "why not" with raised brows, down-turned lips, and shrugs. The three walk into the room. Audie and Prudence sit on a couch across from a system. The pitchman hands them a play list and taps play on a credit-card sized remote.


gnats breathing

--Block Island, RI, August 9, 2002

oak leaves wilting

--Trenton, NJ, November 12, 2002

pond water evaporating

--Waldon, MA, June 30, 2002

dirt drying

--loam in tin pan, kitchen counter,

Budapest, April 1, 2002

sand warming

--Death Valley, CA, August 15, 2002

dust lighting

--living room, Venice Beach, CA, August 19, 2002

eyes rolling

--Joan A., Venice Beach, CA, August 19, 2002

face dropping

--Edwin R., Venice Beach, CA, August 19, 2002

day breaking

--Sydney, Australia, January 23, 2003



Pitchman: Eagerly. Amazing, don't you think?

Prudence: Apologetically. I couldn't hear anything.

Audie: Neither could I.

Pitchman: Beaming. That's fine sound!



Scene 2

Audie and Prudence walk down the long hall of the Made Man Motel.

Audie to himself: A system whose output cannot be distinguished from nothing at all? Would that settle my mind? Grantowski advocates reconceptualizing systems as sound producing machines, not sound reproducing machines. Of which type is a system that sounds only silence? Is this a system a Roshi might purchase for a temple?

Prudence: Audie, look. In that little atrium up ahead, a food cart with a cute name.

Audie: The Double Blind Cafe. Ha!

Pitchman: What would you folks like?

Audie: Whadaya have?

Pitchman: No idea.

Audie: No idea?

Prudence: Really?

Pitchman: Points to sign. Everything's made from double blind testing of all the ingredients in all the combinations that might lead to delicious sandwiches. At least I think they're sandwiches. No one tells me, of course. I hear it takes months to make something.

Prudence: Don't customers tell you what they've bought?

Pitchman: The truth is ma'am, they don't know either.

Audie: They don't?

Pitchman: Everything's sold with a blindfold and nose plugs. Experimental results can only be validly generalized to situations comparable to the experimental setting. Double blind in the making. Double blind partaking. That's our motto!

Audie: How's sales?

Pitchman: Not so good. We figured A Show customers would eat us up. The audiophiles'd think they're finally getting a proper meal! But as you see, the place is almost empty, and the few ‘philes that have come by don't buy! When they realize I can't talk specs and we haven't been reviewed by Fabricant or Lubow or any other New York critic, they head for the nearest brew pub. Whadaya say? Take the plunge?

Prudence: We're very sorry. We've just eaten, and we've got sandwiches.

Pitchman: Sure, sure. Have a good show. Opens the lid of the cart. Pulls out a red, yellow, and white bag. Unwraps a burger.



Scene 3

Outside one of the rooms is a small table with a stack of CDs, a cup, and a sign, "CDs, $15 each." A poster hangs on the wall above the table.

Prudence: "Alienheadband. The Only Head You'll Ever Need!" That's pretty good.

Audie: Grantowski again!


alienheadband • Lover • Out of Orbit Studios •

Next thing, I'm on the couch, a pain biting at my side. I pull up my shirt: two thin parallel scars ‘bout an inch long, right where my kidney is. Or was. Now I remember! Yeah! An interstellar love jones jacked up on dream guitar and crystalbeats. It's the big one, baby. Visions fugitives. All of time in a mandolin lick. alienheadband. These guys have been travelin' cosmic since the 70s, riding guitar and synthesizer on a space groove to a deep blue panpsychedelic star reaction. Reverb! Give me Reverb! alienheadJim, exclusive to this reviewer: "No pointy heads here. We've been to the stars and back, and we are not the same." What I said! Hurling forward on the driving beat of a synthesizer lock. Hit me Daddy! Lover come back! They figure the Black Sabbath, but they fear God. Veils fall. Hot beauty knocks you into a six nines space warp. They've been to Cairo, Shanghai, Bali. Lover breaks hearts across continents and the linked hands of a love-shot universe. Soaring guitars. Spirit-kissed keyboards. Whispers of star dust and mind clouds. Circuits from the warm thighs of Venus. He rides alone, across the dark prairies of the West. Don't shoot! I'm yours! At the center, where all systems meet, it hits. You cry for Mother. You cry for love. Pan answers, soft doves on a prayer. You are free. Hold me a place in heaven. Lover calls.

—Albert Grantowski



Prudence: Wow.

Audie: Wow. Glances up and down hall. Probes Prudence's left pinna with his tongue.

Prudence: Audie. Oh. Stuffs a twenty into the cup, grabs a CD, and tucks it into her sack. Slides her left hand into Audie's left pocket, and squeezes.



Scene 4

Audie and Prudence stop in front of a door. Next to the door is a sign.

The sign says, Final Solutions Audio.

They enter.

Prudence: We are looking for Mr. Bell, Peter Bell. Director of the One World Free Vegetarian Foundation. Do you know him? He might be in trouble.

Pitchman: Sorry, I've never heard of him

Audie: He might be exhibiting a mono system.

Pitchman: I'm sorry, no. Takes a deep breath and exhales through the pitch. But here at Final Solutions Audio, we have found the solution for the last and most crucial variable in the listening experience, the one responsible for frequency variations, cloudy waves, damp vibrations, and uptight metaphors. We have conquered The Last and Greatest Barrier to Pure Sound!

Prudence: How can sound be impure?

Pitchman: Takes another deep breath. Room acoustics were the first to fall. Then electricity, vibrations, gravity, and magnetic waves. All conquered and controlled. We take the final step. We attack, the listener. Our compact EEG with 17 sensors and 11 proprietary algorithms measures 13 essential parameters of brain wave functioning and adjusts your system to compensate for fatigue, overeating, hormonal fluctuations, and consciousness. In fact, the system seamlessly updates its corrections 700 times a second!

Audie: Err, thanks. That's very interesting, but we must find our friend.

Pitchman: Undaunted. Let me wire you up. It'll only take a minute. You'll be amazed to discover just how much you are fouling your system.

Audie: No, thanks, we'd love to but, but we're kind of in a hurry.

Man: Oooooohhh. Ooooooohhhhh.

Prudence: That man on the couch, is he OK?

Man: Uuuuuhhhh. Sits up stiffly, motions for a pen, and hurriedly writes out a check and waves it at the pitchman.

Pitchman: Gets ‘em every time!



Scene 5

Audie and Prudence, hand entwined, sit against the wall down the hall from Final Solutions Audio.

Prudence: It makes me so sad. That man causing such pain. If only he realized that sound can't be "fouled." It's perfect. There can't be anything wrong with what is. You can't help people hear what is by putting wires on their head, only by helping them give up expectations.

Audie: I know, Prue. I know. Pauses. Turns to Prudence. Shouldn't we make a plan if we want to find Bell? I'm not even mentioning finding a new system. There're a lot of rooms here, and A Show closes today! We can't just wander from room to room, listening to stuff. What kind of detective work is that?

Prudence: There are all sorts of searches. Wandering from room to room is one.

Audie: Prue, please don't get inscrutable on me.

Prudence: You once said that you can't find a system by searching for one. All you can do is be in the right place. Remember?

Audie: Yessss.

Prudence: Well, we're in the right place to find Bell and a system!

Audie: Sighs.